WTF Friday, 1/7/11

With the South Sudan referendum fast-approaching, George Clooney’s “Not On Our Watch” is funding commercial sattelites to monitor possible conflict in the country. Clooney has described it as “the best use of his celebrity.” Kinda just seems like he’s trying to recruit a mercenary for Ocean’s Fourteen.

The Dominican Republic has again begun deporting illegal immigrants from Haiti after suspending this practice in the wake of last year’s earthquake. Alright, looks like everything’s back to normal.

Al Shabaab has arrested regional leaders for stealing $10,000 in aid intended for drought-affected areas. If they just kicked out the remaining aid agencies they wouldn’t have to worry about this kind of embarrassment…

Weird Stuff: Today in Genocide

Hey Internets, long time no see. On the list of things I’m going to try to be better about in 2011 is “occasionally showing up to my own blog.”

Meanwhile, a collection of improbable genocide and war crimes related news stories for your end-of-the-year enjoyment:

  1. Alleged war criminal Goran Hadzic may be attempting to finance his life on the run through the sale of a Modigliani oil painting said by Serbian authorities to be worth millions of euros.
  2. Guardian columnist declares Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir misunderstood, not such a jerk after all (h/t: Atlantic Wire).
  3. Academy Award winner / Carrier Pigeon of Peace George Clooney launches genocide prevention satellite surveillance service.

And in less improbable genocide-related news, Côte d’Ivoire’s new ambassador to the United Nations, Youssofou Bamba, has warned the international community that his country is “on the brink of genocide” following no-longer-the-President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to hand over power to actually-the-President Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognized winner of the Nov. 28th runoff election. For an excellent overview of why we should take his statement seriously, see Jina Moore’s new post on the situation.

Is HRW’s Ken Roth Celebrating October Fools’ Day?

Unless there’s an October Fools’ Day that we’re unaware of, we’re going to have to issue an Amber Alert for Ken Roth’s common sense.

Roth, the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, argues in this week’s Foreign Policy that Obama should send troops to Africa to apprehend Joseph Kony:

[A]s Barack Obama recognized in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, “Force can be justified on humanitarian grounds, as it was in the Balkans.”

Obama needs to put this principle into practice, and there is no better case for the humanitarian use of force than the urgent need to arrest Joseph Kony, the ruthless leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and protect the civilians who are his prey. And far from requiring a non-consensual intervention, Kony’s apprehension would be welcomed by the governments concerned.

Say what now? First of all, the fact that force “can be justified” on humanitarian grounds hardly means that the only decision remaining to be made is where to start a-forcing. And second through fourth of all, “far from requiring a non-consensual intervention?”

As they say on ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego,’ let’s go to the map:

The governments concerned are the Sudan, the DRC, and the Central African Republic. Perhaps they might welcome Kony’s apprehension, but does Roth really believe that they would welcome large numbers of American troops trampling their beautiful shrubberies in order to make that happen? Seriously?

Let’s start with Sudan, because recent reports suggest that Kony’s probably hanging out in Darfur at the moment. Let’s set aside for a moment Khartoum’s cuddly relationship with Kony over the years, its refusal to allow Uganda to send its troops into Darfur to pursue him, and the fact that U.S. troops arriving just in time for the referendum on Southern Sudanese independence might raise a few eyebrows. Does Roth really think that if Obama calls up President Bashir and tells him some U.S. marines are on their way over to arrest a notorious war criminal who’s wanted on an ICC warrant, Bashir’s going to be like “peachy keen!” Because we think he might have some concerns about that…

And then we have the DRC, where Kabila continues to insist that the you-say-MONUC-I-say-MONUSCO peacekeepers clear off the field in time for the November 2011 elections. Apparently, it’s time for the Congo to “fly with its own wings.” Definitely sounds like a government that would “welcome” a new intervention, right?

In Roth’s defense, at an A.U. summit today, the CAR government did call for the LRA to be “treated and fought like al Qaeda.” However, we’re thinking that when they said “like al Qaeda” they probably meant “like a serious threat to international peace,” not “like a group in fruitless pursuit of which the United States should reduce our country to rubble for nearly a decade.”

(Hat tips to Texas in Africa, who points out some other potential problems with this plan, and to Abu Muqawama, who nominates Roth for Tuesday’s “Worst Idea on the Internet” award; Map via Reliefweb)

I’ll Take "Terrible Ideas" for $200, Alex

The Daily Monitor reports today that the Southern Sudanese Parliament is allocating $2 million to arming local militias to fight the LRA. (In case you’re new here, the rebel group moved out of Northern Uganda several years ago and has been causing a ruckus in the border region of Southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic ever since.)

The governments in these countries have not been up to the task of protecting their civilians from LRA atrocities, so villagers in many areas have taken matters into their own hands, forming local self-defense forces. In Southern Sudan, these militias, currently armed with knives and traditional weapons, will now be supplied with “guns, communication systems and training.”

This is kind of making my head explode. Let’s have a poll about why:


WTF Friday, 8/20/10

  • In deportation news, the UK and France are going buck wild and looking to deport 20,000 Zimbabweans and 700 Roma, respectively. France has already moved forward with the plans while the UK is first performing a fact-finding mission. The mission is intended to assess the political and economic climate, but let’s hope it also assesses the real climate, which would push back the deportations until October when the UK is in the middle of Fall and Zimbabwe’s Summer begins. Upgrade!
  • Thanks to Kate for pointing me to this story on Southern Sudan planning to remake cities to look like animals. I was skeptical at first, but I was the same way when I heard they had cookies shaped like animals, and let’s just say I’ve been eating more than my words ever since.
  • Ok Brazil really needs to get a little tougher with its anti-slavery laws. I realize fining a company for keeping slaves on its ranches is better than turning a blind eye, but placing a monetary value on this kind of thing opens the door to a cost-benefit analysis on slave labor. Tell me someone’s not crunching these numbers right now.

WTF Friday, 7/16/2010

  • I would have to imagine that many people’s perception of child soldiers will change after this NYT article. It reports on the U.S.-funded Somali government’s use of child soldiers. This is telling: “When asked how the American government could guarantee that American money was not being used to arm children, one of the officials said, ‘I don’t have a good answer for that.’” Also I have to give a wtf to Obama for his response to questioning regarding America’s place alongside Somalia as the only countries not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child: “It is embarrassing to find ourselves in the company of Somalia, a lawless land.” That’s just rude, really.
  • Following the World Cup, there have been rumors of the possibility of a return of xenophobic violence in South Africa. And even if there hadn’t been, Jacob Zuma would scare everyone about it anyway: “Let us isolate all elements who may have sinister agendas, who may want to create havoc and sow pain and destruction in communities.” What a wordsmith, right?
  • Bashir’s finally got the trifecta! The ICC earlier this week added a warrant for genocide to go along with a previous warrant of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Hope he thanks his mom in his acceptance speech. This is also the ICC’s first warrant for genocide, so congrats to them, too. According to Elise Keppler, senior counsel with the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch, “President al-Bashir’s stonewalling on the initial ICC warrant against him appears only more outrageous now that he’s also being sought for genocide” Really? That’s what appears outrageous? Not the fact that a second warrant was issued after the first one was followed only by Bashir “kicking out nearly half of Darfur’s humanitarian aid providers?” Ok whatever you say…

  • And finally, FP reports on Beijing’s lock-down policy for migrants. A banner reads, “Closing up the village benefits everyone.” Really? Everyone? Guess I’ll just have to continue with this trusting mood today…

O RLY?

The bomb blasts in Kampala the other night blew out one of the main cables that brings us our Webbernetz, so I’ve had very limited access the last day or two. (Thankfully, I am fine, and my friends are all fine. The city is tense.) But I did manage to load the NYTimes op-ed by Dave Eggers and John Prendergast on southern Sudan just now.

I certainly agree with the message that the U.S. should remain engaged in the referendum process there. A couple of things caught my eye though:

“In the clear, simple and eminently enforceable peace agreement, South Sudan was granted three crucial things…”

Clear and simple, eh? The Comprehensive Peace Agreement is over 250 pages long, contains a 6 page list of abbreviations for the actors and documents it references, and comprises 6 separate protocols.
As for “eminently enforceable,” well, the story of getting Khartoum to do things has been one of finding the right carrots, not applying threatening sticks. The “[w]e have no leverage” quote from Special Envoy Gration alludes to this fact. It’s possible the U.S. will find the right set of incentives to convince the regime that holding the referendum is in its interests, but if not, it’s not clear that any of the “threatened pressures” proposed by Eggers and Prendergast would be effective.

And then there’s this:

“The peace in Sudan is one the United States ‘owns.’”

No. Just no. This strikes me as indicative of a type of activism that, in an effort to spark and sustain American interest, overemphasizes U.S. relevance to the situation, and obscures the importance of local actors. (See, e.g., the recent LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.) I’m not a fan.

WTF Friday, 4/30/10

  • Mother Jones highlights a photo series by Jonathan Torgovnik featuring women who had children as a result of rape during the Rwandan genocide. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like MJ’s headline, “Can You Love a Child of Rape?,” is really the right way to frame this. Doesn’t posing the question that way place “not loving them” as the default, and “loving them” as the exception? Doesn’t that make you kind of uncomfortable? Would really like to hear from our readers on this.

  • Speaking of rape and eye-catching headlines (as we tend to do), there has got to be a better way to convey that there has been a lot of rape in the DRC than calling it the “rape capital of the world.” I mean, shouldn’t the UN have some sort of “special representative on sexual violence in conflict” who would handle these matters more delicately? Oh, they do? Oh, she said it? Cripes.

  • FP has a great piece called “The World’s Worst Immigration Laws.” I find it interesting that Italy fines illegal immigrants while Japan pays them to leave. Wacky world we live in.
  • Lastly, from the “forgone conclusion department,” Bashir wins in a landslide.